Gentrification Watch

I did a short interview earlier this week with a writer from NOW Magazine in Toronto, about a new art exhibition down in a Parkdale warehouse called A City Renewal Project. I haven’t seen the show, but I gather that what the artists have done is recreate a rundown neighbourhood in the warehouse/gallery, as a way of commenting on gentrification and the way it literally papers over the decay and poverty in our midst.

Apparently there’s a minor kerfuffle over the fact that the two main sponsors of the event are Grolsch and Red Bull. Not a big deal as far as I’m concerned, but two of the usual suspects — Benjamin Barber and Kalle Lasn — chip in with the requisite condescension: Barber says the artists have been co-opted; Lasn says they’ve sold out. Interestingly enough, it falls to one of the actual artists to point out the obvious:

But guerrilla artist Dan Bergeron says he’s not much impressed by the anti-corporate dissing. “Obviously, a project of this nature is time-consuming and needs resources and money to produce,” he says. “Red Bull 381 thought it was a great initiative, and even though it couldn’t happen in their gallery space, they helped fund it.”

I agree with Dan. There is an almost perfect alliance of interests herem since the only people who care about gentrification enough to go see anart exhibit about it are the sorts of people who are liable to drink Grolsch and Red Bull. Furthermore, Red Bull’s original guerilla marketing campaign, the one that made it a monster success in all of the hippest bars, was not much different in structure from guerilla art campaigns. The whole thing is the perfect rebel sell, in the best sense of the term.

I’m quoted in the piece saying that “I’ve found it charming that culture jammers have abandoned the idea that what they’re doing is taking down the system. They just want to kick the can and have pillow fights.”

I wasn’t being sarcastic when I said that. The best aspect of hipster culture is that it abandoned the idea that non-conformity has any sort of political dimension to it. It doesn’t make the whole scene any less obnoxious, but that’s because all scenes are obnoxious. At its best, Hipsterdom has generated some wonderful forms of art that is charming without the tiresome anti-establishment politics.

Related reading:

The widely-blogged Adbusters article on Hipsters as the “Dead End of Western Civilization.”

Gothamist reports on the arrests in Williamsburg the night of Obama’s victory

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